This relatively lackluster showing was particularly notable in the "Villains" created for the show. Sure, we've gotten to hear about the Romulans again and the Klingons have shown up. However, the Klingons are now our friends (the Enterprise-D has one on its crew, for Kahless' sake) and the new "Break-Out" villains were... "The Ferengi". The only Star Trek Race that could make the Kazon look cool. Hell, the only really cool new Villain (if you could call him that) was John de Lancie's "Q"! This is where The Borg come in.
And, for that matter, that's where Q comes in. Q has returned to taunt Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart, of course) and his intrepid ship, claiming that he's been kicked out of the Q Continuum. Well, sure hate it for Q! I wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that last time we saw him, he gave Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes), of all people, Q-Like Powers. Sheesh!
But that was then. Now, the Impish Omnipotent seems to have a sense of humor about the crew's lack of experience with any REAL menace. Speaking of Menace, there's one thing even Q-Ball himself didn't anticipate, the presence of a certain El-Aurian Bar Tender named Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg). It's almost worth the whole episode to see the Karate Kid stance she takes in confrontation of Q when he warns Picard that she is "not what she appears to be". What's she gonna do, get him drunk?
Suddenly unaffiliated (so he claims) and lamenting the fact that his favorite AMT/ERTL Model Kit is woefully unprepared for what lies ahead, the Qster offers to join the crew (he's already wearing the Starfleet Uniform, complete with Captain's Pips). Picard's answer, in so many words, is "Like Hell, Laughing Boy, we've got this in the Bag!" Guess he forgot that "Woosley" Crusher (Wil Wheaton) is still on board. Well, we all know how Little Boy Q likes a good test, so with a snap of his fingers, the ship is hurled (we think) into the Delta Quadrant where a certain big ass box o' Borg are just waiting to Assimilate them.
"Q Who" is, at worst, a very interesting episode, highlighting a terrifying new villain in The Borg. The Cybernetic Army is covered in machinery, is completely pale where skin is seen and is proven to be fully adaptable to Phaser Fire. What's more, the worst damage the Enterprise can do is an easy repair job for the Big Borg Cube. Further, it's interesting to note the small amount that is known, so far, about the Borg. This is logical from a Continuity standpoint, after all, Starfleet (or, at least, the Enterprise) wasn't aware of the Borg's existence. From a real-world standpoint, this either shows a few changed premises or a gradual fleshing out of the villains themselves.
For example, The Borg's Hive-Mind concept is revealed here and the one time they "speak", the echoing multi-voice chant is heard. Further, the adaptive shielding and the Borg's lack of interest in individuals (which comes in handy when Riker leads Worf [Michael Dorn] and Data [Brent Spiner] on an away mission to the cube). On the other hand, The Borg don't seem to be interested here in Assimilating people or, possibly, even the ship. In fact, the word "Assimilate" isn't used even once, nor for that matter, is the phrase "Resistance is Futile". Guinan (who not only knows about Q, but the Borg as well) reveals that it was the Borg that scattered her race by scooping out every city on her planet (something they apparently do in "Q Who" also), but she never mentions the El-Aurians "becoming" Borg. Most interesting of all (in hindsight, at least), Riker discovers Infant Borg in an opening state of Assimilation. Talk about a square implant in a round eye-hole... whoa!
To be fair, the crew wasn't with the Borg all that long (an almost literal Deus Ex Machina pops up at Picard's request), so J.L. and the Gang might not have interpreted everything right. Further on the fairness track, maybe the Borg didn't assimilate the Al-Aurians because Whoopi's the only one less boring than a PBS Pledge Drive on the planet Vulcan! To be even more fair... it is just a TV Show. Premises can change without destroying a religion (or is this why they drank the "Kool-Aid"?).
Although not quite the shocking models of Bio-Mechanical Zombie Fear we find in First Contact, "Regeneration" or the Voyager episodes, the Borg here are pretty scary in that Hellraiser way. They remained virtually unchanged for years to come and still brought forth some of the most satisfying hours of Star Trek you could watch. The dark form with the ghostly white face... the one-eyed evil glare. The ability to download the entire ship's computer with the wave of a magic hand. The Borg are just plain cool.
In addition to the cool special effects (and, especially for 1989 Television, they pretty much were), the direction of Rob Bowman is a great compliment to this Mysterious episode. His direction, coupled with Stewart's acting almost shores up any plot holes like Bondo on a Chevelle's hood. But then again, writer Maurice Hurley and company were still playing a bit of a "cute" angle, as in many first and second season episodes. To this end LeVar Burton's Engineer Geordi La Forge gets a sprightly new sidekick named Ensign Sonya Gomez (Lycia Naff) who starts the ball rolling by... spilling hot chocolate all over Picard. I'm pretty sure Barney the Dinosaur would have shown up too, if he wasn't afraid of being assimilated. Heh, hey, Resistance is Futile, boys and girls! Dude, then we'd flip right over to "Reading Rainbow", and Geordi could teach us about Friendship! By the way, Naff's character lasted every bit of one more episode. It was a mighty cute one, though.
One note of interest, although originally intended to be more "Insect-Like", the Borg are most obviously "Cyborgs" who share a single mind and have a very interesting way of recruiting new troops. Although the concept of a "Cyborg" wasn't invented here, or even years before this episode, many Science Fiction fans have noted the similarities between "The Borg" and "The Cybermen" from the British Television show Doctor Who. The Cybermen converted victims into replicas of themselves (cyber-conversion instead of assimilation). The Cybermen threatened their enemies by saying "Resistance is Useless" (whereas the Borg prefer "Resistance is Futile"). Further, the Borg Catch Line "We will add your technological and biological distinctiveness to our own" sounds like a vaguely more fancy version of the Cybermen's "YOU WILL BECOME LIKE US!" Lastly, they were introduced in an episode called "Q Who"... which does sound a bit like "Doctor Who". But then, it also sounds like "The Who", which would be great. Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon could spank those Borg but good. One "Won't Get Fooled Again!" scream from Daltrey and that geometric ship would split down the middle. Huzzah!
All told, this is a good, if not yet great, introduction to my favorite Star Trek Enemy Army. Sure they've changed a lot (and then some), but it's good to know they were gettin' down even in their first appearance. The end of the third season (and the beginning of the fourth) would bring fourth one of the best Borg Arcs still to this day in the form of "The Best of Both Worlds", in which the Borg Assimilate the WRONG MAN! As for "Q Who"... it assimilates Three and One Half Stars out of Five. No Queen, no nanobots, no Species 8472, no Locutus, no Hugh, no Lore, no Sphere, no Phoenix no Bull... but then... no Seven of Nine either. Okay, nobody's perfect. Assimilate you in the Next Reel!
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